The young man had committed no crime, but they came to arrest him anyways. They came afraid, under cover of darkness with weapons drawn, though he had made no threats and shown no indication of violence. They insulted him and beat him as he awaited trial. No evidence was brought against him that supported his conviction, and yet he was convicted. They abused him, tortured him, and executed him.
Jesus, too, was a victim of police brutality.
I have found myself reflecting on the story of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion a great deal this week, as once again the headlines are consumed with stories of racism, violence, and injustice. In particular, I find myself thinking of the weeping women. I am a white woman; I am a witness to the brutality of racism rather than its victim, and the more I learn, the more I weep. Jesus told the women who wept for him,
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:28-31)
Green wood is young wood, new wood. Dry wood is old, matured wood. If Jesus was met with crucifixion 2000 years ago, what happens today? Today our societal sin is more insidious. We no longer make a public spectacle of our brutality, as the Romans did with crucifixions. Instead, we try to hide it. In fact, we have spent so many generations becoming experts at hiding it that some no longer believe it exists. In order to see the ways we crucify our brethren today, those of us raised in privilege must unlearn so much. For every victim of obvious brutality, like Freddie Gray, there are thousands of victims of more invisible injustices, too numerous to list. And even still, our sin has gained so much of the familiarity that comes with age that even the obvious brutality is often denied.
And so I weep. I weep for the suffering I see before me, yes, as the women wept for Jesus. I weep, too, for myself and my peers: I weep for my own complicity in the system of oppression on which our nation is founded. I weep for the enormity of the task of change. I weep for those who are blind to this suffering. I weep for whatever blindness in myself I have yet to discover. And I weep for our children: I weep for my inability to shield my young son from the messages of oppression that are diffused in our culture and media. I weep for the injustice that my own child is protected by his skin from the struggles others’ children will face. I weep that we cannot give our children a world free of oppression. And, like Jesus’ followers, who believed in the Resurrection but did not yet know they would witness it, I weep because I do not know if I will ever see our society redeemed.